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By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 30, 2008

As most veteran lobbyists will tell you, the need for their services increases when the government seeks to enact change. Recent legislative sessions saw huge lobbying resources triggered by two hot-button proposals: universal health insurance, and a ban on same-sex marriage. The health-care interests’ spending dropped sharply after the health-reform bill was signed in April 2006, and groups like massequality.org scaled back after the proposed marriage amendment was defeated this past June.

But a new governor means new proposals — in 2007, every time Deval Patrick’s administration got behind an idea, those who would be affected upped their lobbying budgets.

Patrick’s proposal to fix a so-called loophole in telecom taxes caused Verizon to more than double its lobbying expenses, paying William F. Coyne and Nutter, McClennan & Fish an extra $100,000-plus each in 2007. The association representing telecom interests spent just $60,000 lobbying Beacon Hill in 2006; in 2007 it was one of the 10 biggest spenders, at $434,000.

Meanwhlie, the biggest casino lobbyist, the owners of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, who want to build a casino at the track, upped their lobbying five-fold, from $90,000 in 2006 to $460,000 this past year.

Several lobbying firms took advantage of the shifting landscape to boost their bottom lines. O’Neill & Associates, headed by Thomas O’Neill III, made the biggest jump, from $1,121,944 in 2006 to $1,649,900, making it the top earner of the year. The group picked up several new clients, including health insurer Tufts Associated Health Plans, technology provider ACS State & Local Solutions, and Brockton-based teen-services provider MY TURN.

Johnson Haley LLP (with former state representative Pierce Haley) jumped from seventh to third on the earnings list, thanks largely to an $85,000 increase in its contract with Wal-Mart. Suffolk Group, Quinn & Morris, Dewey Square Group, Bay State Strategies Group, and Nutter McClennan & Fish were also winners.

All of these firms made sure to pass along some of their gains to the officeholders they hope to influence.

State House lobbyists can give only $200 a year to individual candidates, and yet they give enough of those $200 gifts that they account for a huge chunk of total fundraising.

Registered lobbyists at the 20 most generous firms gave a total of just more than $400,000 to candidates in 2007, the Phoenix found. Each of the 10 highest-earning firms was among those top-20 givers.

Naturally, these firms tend to give to the most influential: new State Senate President Murray took in more than $25,000 in contributions from lobbyists this past year.

Local war chests
Despite all of the State House action, the biggest fundraiser in the state this year was Boston mayor Thomas Menino, who brought in more than a million dollars for his 2009 re-election campaign.

That was intended to scare off potential challengers, several sources say — and should be pretty effectively frightening.

But Menino is not the richest of the potential mayoral candidates.

Secretary of State William Galvin, who has been eternally saving up for races he never enters, had nearly $2 million on hand at the end of 2007, double Menino’s war chest. And Congressman Steve Lynch, who had not filed his year-end federal report as the Phoenix went to press, has more than a million dollars.

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